Document:California Press Release 17 March 1999 Pay Raises for Legislative Leaders Highway Robbery

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400 Capitol Mall, Suite 900
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 449-3941
For immediate release: March 17, 1999
For additional information:
Juan Ros, Executive Director
Phone: (818) 506-0200

Pay raises for legislative leaders 'highway robbery,' Libertarians charge

SACRAMENTO -- The recently-approved pay raises for California's legislative leaders is politics as usual, is unheard of in the private sector, and is "highway robbery on taxpayers," the Libertarian Party of California charged today.

On Tuesday the California Citizens Compensation Commission, the seven-member panel that establishes annual salaries and benefits for state officers, approved 15% pay raises for Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa (D-Los Angeles) and Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco), increasing their salary from $99,000 to $113,850 per year.

In addition, the commission approved 7.5% pay raises for the Legislature's four party floor leaders, a boost to $106,425. The four legislators entitled to the increase are Senate Democratic floor leader Richard G. Polanco (D-Los Angeles), GOP floor leader Ross Johnson (R-Irvine), Assembly Democratic floor leader Kevin Shelley (D-San Francisco), and GOP floor leader Rod Pacheco (R-Riverside). The increases will take effect December 6.

"One doesn't normally see these sorts of huge raises in the private sector, where workers are rewarded for creativity and ingenuity. Why are we rewarding legislators?" asked Libertarian state chair Mark Hinkle. "For over-taxing, over-regulating, and over-legislating? It's highway robbery."

The latest raises come just three months after all 120 legislators received 26% pay raises, from $78,624 to $99,000, making California's Legislature the highest- paid in the country. For Burton and Villaraigosa, the new raises represent a whopping 45% increase in two years.

The amount of the raise isn't the only concern Libertarians have: the four floor leaders' positions are chosen by the two parties and are not constitutionally- recognized leadership positions. "Why should taxpayers pay extra for positions of party leadership? Party labels should not be used to create positions of power within the Legislature," Hinkle stated.

Further, the raises don't include legislators' other perks: subsidized cars and $121 in daily tax-free expense allowances, which can add over $20,000 a year to a legislator's bank account.

"Californians will never be satisfied until lawmakers' salaries more closely reflect their own," said Hinkle. "Libertarians urge the Compensation Commission to adapt a 'public pay equity' policy and tie public wages to private wages. Then eliminate legislative pay perks and end the public funding of party leadership positions.

"Otherwise, lawmakers may find themselves fired by their employers -- the California taxpayers."